Greetings, travelers! Happy 2020 and welcome to the second annual Purposeful Gaming Challenge!

Whether you are a veteran of the challenge from last year and looking to come back for round two or just now joining us, know I’m happy to have you with us. Community makes all the difference for challenges of any size. We were lucky to have a core group of people working together last year, sharing successes and sorrows alike, and all keeping one another going during the hardest weeks. I learned a lot from how the challenge was approached and tackled, and have made some needed adjustments to the rules this year to make it more flexible and provide greater opportunity for customizing it for a wider audience. 

Before we get started properly, I want to give a very special shoutout to two very awesome people in the Greetings From community who made it all the way with us: Boots (@JGtotheMAX) and Aethom (@theapthomas). The Greetings From team also assembled our thoughts on the challenge from last year: Rebecca | Olivia | Tyler

What is it?

The Purposeful Gaming Challenge (PGC) is a twist on the traditional 52 Week challenges that tend to pop up as part of new year resolutions. You may have even already participated in something like this, whether it was watching 52 movies or reading 52 books. The “purposeful” part is what we at Greetings From strive to make a key aspect of our relationship with video games, and have each approached this idea differently during our first year with the challenge. Ideally, we like to use the challenge to help ourselves and others accomplish a few important goals:

  • Basic practical knowledge of more games. For those aspiring to be developers, artists, writers, and so on–there is no better way to learn the craft than to purposefully consume and study it.
  • A dent in your backlog (or forelog). We’re all guilty of long backlogs or lots of plans to balance all the new games coming out every year. The PGC provides an opportunity to plan out your year of gaming and ensure you have time to see everything you want to see. 
  • A better understanding of your own interests. Do you keep picking up the same kinds of games, playing them until you’re tired of them, and never really learning anything from it? Don’t do that anymore! Learn what really appeals to you and hone your ability to meaningfully critique the kinds of games you can’t get enough of.

How does it work?

I refined the rules in 2020 to remove some of the confusion that came about last year. In particular, I wanted to refocus the framing of the challenge itself to widen the scope for Purposeful Gaming and provide more opportunity and inspiration for customizing the challenge to fit your unique 2020 goals. 

  • Your goal is to play 52 different games in 2020. That’s one game per week for each week of the year. You can play more if you would like to, and there is no penalty for playing fewer. Fifty-two is merely an easily trackable number that will allow you to see a good variety of games throughout the year. This is not an easy feat, however; I do call it a challenge for a reason!
  • Any game counts. Phone games, big long commercial games, small team games, demos, DLC, old games, even board games! The choice is totally up to you as to what you want to play, because you should always be playing what you want to.  
  • Make decisions about your games. At the end of each week, I’d like to challenge you to reflect on the game that you played, and place it into one of our suggested categories:
    • Finished – Whether you saw to the end of the main story or hit a crisp 100%, you feel comfortable having seen everything the game has to offer. 
    • Unfinished/Will Complete – It’s not always easy to finish a whole game in a single week, so this category is for games you enjoy and want to keep playing. 
    • Unfinished/Won’t Complete – This is the category for learning to say no. You may not particularly like every game you engage with and that’s totally okay. Part of respecting your time is about setting your own boundaries
    • Other Categories – You’re free to use any categories you’d like to help group your games together, beyond just the three listed above. I often use Ongoing as a category for games that are generally endless, like Stardew Valley or Destiny 2. I’m also someone that likes to dip back into an old favorite I’ve played before, so to give myself that leniency, I use the category One-Off to mark games that fall outside of the PGC scope. 
  • Keep track of your games. You’re free to do this in any way that is meaningful to you! I like to use Airtable, while others may stick to a Google Sheet or Excel document. You may find that you also like blogging or journaling about your gaming experiences, or creating art about them. Keeping track of what you’re playing is more for you than anyone else, but it’s fun to go back at the end of the year to see everything you played. For 2020, we’re providing both an Airtable template and Google Sheet template to help get you started.

Each week, beginning on January 1st, I’ll post a thread on the Greetings From subreddit. These threads are optional, but a great way to connect with others and share what you’re playing that week and what you think of it. I am certain I was only able to finish the challenge last year because I had others in the Reddit and Discord to hold me accountable, and their support and enthusiasm for their own challenges made it a fun way to bond together over something we all love.

How can I make it my own?

I’m glad you asked! The primary challenge of the PGC is meant to be twofold: play 52 games during 2020 and play them purposefully. The “purposeful” part is meant to be up to your discretion! I created the PGC originally around the idea of playing purposefully with your time, but I would encourage everyone to level up in 2020 and consider other ways to be purposeful with your gaming. Think about causes that are important to you (e.g. fair labor, supporting minoritized creators, unionization, environmentalism, etc.), ways to be more frugal or judicious with your spending, opportunities to support independent artists and teams, and so forth. 

I’ve included below some ideas from the community to help give you a launching point to design your own PGC:

  • Backlog Buster – We’ve all gotten a little too excited during a Steam Sale and ended up buying more games than we might have actually had time to play. Maybe there are a few games you’ve played in the past couple of years that you’ve really wanted to get back to but just haven’t had the time. The Backlog Buster challenge is all about working your way backward and carving a purposeful dent in your backlog. Looking to level up your Backlog Busting? Take the frugal route and go on a no-buy or low-buy to ensure that you’re giving time to the games you already own, and saving some extra dollars for the games you really do want to buy. 
  • Patient Player – Video games are often a major investment, and not everyone has the ability to buy every new game as it releases. Patient Playing is for those who are more focused on buying games for the challenge, but still looking to stay frugal. Sales and deals come along frequently, making it more affordable to buy big box games within a few months following their release, and is a great way to engage with the criticism and discourse around games you may have regretted buying on Day 1. 
  • Itch Idealist – The Greetings From team is a big fan of Itch.io, a platform where developers can easily self-publish their work. There are a lot of incredible games available on Itch (and we have an ongoing roundup of our favorites!) and many are available for free, for a donation, or for a reasonable price. The Itch Idealist is someone who is interested in exploring more experimental games, more complex narratives, and more artistic experiences that are not always found in the big box gaming space.  
  • Subscription Seeker – Subscription services are all the rage these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were already paying for a few! I personally pay for Game Pass/Xbox Live Gold, Twitch Prime, Apple Arcade, and PlayStation Plus, which nets me quite a few free games every month. Many of you may also have subscriptions to Humble Bundle, or regularly pick up free offerings from the Epic Games Store. Regardless of what you’re subscribed to, a great way to challenge yourself this year is to explore all the games at your fingertips. You may not have purchased them, but you are paying to access them; make the most of your subscription!
  • Cause-Conscious Choices – This is a more personal way to approach the PGC, but after so many issues in the gaming industry came to light in 2019, I thought it would be a smart way to approach gaming in 2020. The Cause-Conscious gamer chooses to vote with their wallet, and abstain from purchasing games from creators, studios, or publishers whose actions or values go against what is important to them. Consider boycotting studios who support unfair labor practices or create hostile work environments for minoritized groups. Don’t give money to known abusers. Make a commitment to what you believe in. 

I still have questions!

And I have some answers! Here’s some of the most frequently asked questions:

52 games is a lot of money! How can I keep up?

  • You’re absolutely right! There is no rule about needing to spend money to accomplish this challenge. Obviously I’m not condoning piracy, but I’m also not telling you to buy 52 $60 games on Day 1. Here’s some frugal gaming tips:
    • Pull from your backlog!
    • Sales, baby! Gamestop, Target, Best Buy, Steam, the PlayStation and Xbox stores, and on and on–sales happen all the time and it’s a great way to catch up on stuff you’ve missed on the cheap.
    • The Epic Games Store is giving away free games every two weeks!
    • Humble Bundle is a great way to get a lot of games for the price of one!
    • Subscriptions! Humble Monthly, PSN, Gamepass, Twitch Prime–all these and more give away free games every month.
    • Free games! They exist! https://itch.io/ is a great place to find experimental free or extremely inexpensive games.
    • https://www.reddit.com/r/GameDeals/ is a great follow!

I’m going on vacation and I won’t have access to my Switch/console/PC and can’t dedicate time to playing this week. Does this mean I’m disqualified?

  • Not at all! This is a challenge after all, not the rules by which you must now live your life. If you know you’ve got some busy time coming up, consider playing a couple small games in the same week beforehand. If life comes at you fast and you lose all the free time you had, try a mobile game or something arty on Steam. The goal is just to experience 52 games, but they don’t all have to be 60 hour monsters. Don’t forget your old friend https://howlongtobeat.com/ if you need some help scheduling.

What do I get if I actually play 52 games in 2020?

  • We have something special planned for those who make it through to the end of 2020. Stay tuned and keep gaming! 

Photo by Lorenzo Herrera on Unsplash

 

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